The legacy of one California newspaper adviser

From a post to the JEA email discussion list:
I did not have the good fortune to meet and know Ted Tajima, but it appears we have lost a giant in our field. The occasion of his death led me to revisit some of scholastic journalism’s history and learn more about this man and his school. Takima had been the adviser for many years to The Moor newspaper at Alhambra High School. Here’s his obituary from the Los Angeles Times.

Last week, I spoke with a reporter for the Los Angeles Times about The Moor and its adviser and accomplishments. The reporter’s beat was obituaries, though another reporter wrote this piece. The reporter I spoke with happened to be one of Takima’s former students and a member of The Moor staff that earned a NSPA Pacemaker in 1972. It should be noted there were only five or six newspaper National Pacemakers each year from 1961 through 1978. The Moor earned that honor twice for its weekly editions.

The reporter with I spoke shared with me an article, from the Los Angeles Times morgue, printed in 1983 when Tajima retired from teaching. The lengthy piece covers his personality and career but also changes in society and Alhambra High School, in education and in professional and scholastic journalism. This passage from the article demonstrates his teaching style and how some issues remain unresolved today:

And, he said, there have been changes in the type of reporting done in the school paper as students became more aware of the world around them.

“It used to be, back in the ’50s, that we’d report one week that the Spanish Club would meet, and then the next week report that the Spanish Club had met,” he said.

But in the ’50s and ’60s, Tajima said, his students seemed to become more aware of what was going on outside the school, and started to report on it, sometimes even in the colorful language that was then becoming acceptable.

“Our rule has been that a four-letter word may be used once in a while, but only if it is in context of the story, and not just for exploitation, just to attract attention,” he said.

“One of the principles I’ve always taught is that the newspaper is an educator as well as the schools, and that the newspaper must set standards for the community.

“I’ve told them: You know who your readers are, but it doesn’t mean you have to get down in the dirt with them.”

In the NSPA archives, I found a note Tajima submitted with the 1981-82 critique for The Moor: “Admittedly, THE MOOR in its makeup appears more traditional than the many biweekly and monthly publications we see in exchanges and in journalism conventions. It is our feeling, however, that we publish a weekly newspaper, 37 times a year, and we are able, because of a Monday deadline for a Wednesday publication day, to emphasize news more than features. So we stick more to a newspaper format instead of a magazine format. Yet, we are criticized for the fact that we prize frequency and news emphasis over less news-worthy magazine styles.”

Even 29 years later the debate about frequency continues, as does the evolving discussion about newspapers vs. newsmagazines.

Clearly Ted Tajima’s legacy includes the many former students who are now professionals in a variety of fields, including some notable journalists.

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